Wednesday, January 30, 2013

To Revise or Rewrite...

Each story that I work on becomes a labour of love, and I don't subscribe to the practice of revising as I go, since if I did, I probably wouldn't get anywhere.

Inevitably, when the rough draft has been written, I must read it through to get an idea of what works and what doesn't. Usually, I'm so in love with my story and so confident with my own brilliance (haha) that I only see a couple of things that need tweaking plot-wise and alot of language that needs working on. Sometimes, however, when I'm already in a mid-winter funk, reading over a rough draft is an exercise in self doubt and disappointment.

I just went through this with The Cross and The Trinity. I'd had no doubts about the story during the planning and writing of it. But when I read through the first half of it this week and over a particular turning point, I had sincere doubts about whether it really worked as a semi-realistic plot. In fact, I knew instinctively that there was something really wrong. It even threw the entire story into doubt for a time. I posted on Facebook that I would essentially rewrite the whole novel, going in a different direction. And I began to do so. But as I set about writing a new outline, I realized I wasn't really sure about this plot either.

I decided to read a little more of the existing rough draft, just to see if it could be altered enough to be believable. Luckily, I figured out that adding some time lapse and changing the motivation for one essential decision was the key to making the story work. There is a good story here - and I'm glad I realized it before scrapping the whole thing.

I think that writers, especially those who have yet to be published, can get caught up in a cycle of enthusiasm for, and belief in, the story they are writing, and self-doubt and criticism of their work. We are sensitive creatures. No doubt every story needs a going over and a concentrated revision and polish before submission. But to scrap it and essentially start over would be an exercise in frustration, as no story ever works out exactly as you'd envisioned it. The key is to go back, change anything that needs changing, fix up the wording, submit it and cross your fingers. The publisher will know whether your story is worth contracting.

~ Liz

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